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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Great Balls of Fire
Great Balls of Fire
MGM // PG-13 // June 4, 2002
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted June 8, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

"Great Balls Of Fire", director Jim McBride's 1989 biopic, has the energy of its subject, but it decides to not really give much insight into what made the singer tick. Rather than bring much depth to its exploration of the singer, the film goes from point A to point B, following the singer's rise to fame and eventually downfall into anger and chaos, as well as his controversial marriage to his 13-year-old cousin Myra (Winona Ryder).

The singer is portrayed well by Dennis Quaid, who brings the charm, the ego, the humor and the darkness of the singer to the screen. If it wasn't for the actor's fierce performance, I don't think I would have been as interested in the tale, as it really doesn't have a whole lot to say. Of equal interest is an early performance from Ryder as Myra; she wonderfully portrays both sides of the character - both thrilled at her involvement with the star and saddened when she begins to wonder what she's gotten herself into as well as if their talked-about marriage is ruining Lee Lewis's career. There's a sense that the situation was more dramatic than how the movie portrays it, but apparently, the screenplay (reportedly a rewrite after a darker original) was based upon the real-life Myra's book.

While not particularly substancial in any way, the film at least gets the details right. The period costumes, cars and sets are impressively done, especially considering this doesn't appear to be a big-budget offering otherwise. The songs, still catchy after all these years, were also re-recorded by Lewis himself and lip-synched by Quaid.

Although I sense that the singer's life had potential to be made into a more interesting and dramatic film than this one, "Great Balls Of Fire" is made at least moderately entertaining by the two excellent lead performances.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Great Balls Of Fire" is presented by MGM/UA in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and pan & scan. Each edition of the film has its own side to itself on this dual-sided, single-layered DVD. The anamorphic widescreen presentation is flawed, but often quite good-looking. Sharpness and detail are very good and quite consistent; while the picture never appeared remarkably well-defined, it at least always looked crisp and clear, with no instances of noticable softness.

A few minor flaws are scattered throughout the presentation - while they are occasionally noticable, I didn't think they caused any great distraction. The print is in very good condition, with only a couple of specks and a few hints of grain. Some light edge enhancement was spotted during a few instances, but I didn't feel it was terribly noticable. Pixelation and other flaws were absent.

Colors looked fairly good throughout the film; while they often appeared bright and warm, occasionally they could appear slightly flat and washed-out. Overall, while not a noteworthy presentation, I still felt this was a pretty good effort.

SOUND: Certainly, "Great Balls Of Fire" is an instance where a 5.1 remix should have been considered. Unfortunately, it wasn't, but the 2.0 presentation is still more impressive than I'd expected. Although much of the film is dialogue-driven, when the music starts, it sounds rich and dynamic. There's little else about the soundtrack, but the music really sounded superb. Dialogue also came through clearly.

MENUS: MGM's usual basic backgrounds for their catalog titles.

EXTRAS: The trailer.

Final Thoughts: "Great Balls Of Fire" doesn't bring much insight into the life of the singer, but the film does coast along well on its energy and two lead performances from Quaid and Ryder. MGM's DVD offers respectable audio/video, but little in the way of supplements. Fans should consider a purchcase, as the DVD can be found for as low as $9.99.

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